Cunard, the heritage British cruise line, has been celebrating a major milestone: 175 years of sailing across the Atlantic—all in the height of style and sophistication. In the 19th century, the company, which was founded by Sir Samuel Cunard, began by ferrying passengers and cargo between the United Kingdom and the United States. Today, Cunard, which is owned by Carnival Corporation, has three beautiful ships—Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria—and calls on ports across the globe.
Some fun stats for history junkies: On February 5, 1840, Cunard’s first ship, Britannia, set sail on a transatlantic voyage from Southampton, England, carrying 115 first-class passengers, 86 crew, 600 tons of coal, chickens, and loads of mail. Just two years later, they were carrying famous folks like Charles Dickens, who sailed with his wife to America. On March 3, 1870, the Abyssinia was launched—and this was the first Cunard ship to be outfitted with bathrooms. In 1874, there were some other major firsts at sea: the first library, the first smoking room, and the first lounge for women, all introduced on Bothnia. During World War II, the Queen Mary actually served as a troop ship.
Over the decades, the line has drawn stars and royalty to its decks. Here, dug up from the Cunard archives, are vintage shots of passengers on various ships.